Building a homemade FM repeater with a Raspberry PI, RPITX and RTL SDR dongle

A radio repeater is usually a radio tower that receives weak signals from handheld, desktop or other radio, and rebroadcasts the same signal at a higher power over a wide area at a different frequency. This allows communications to be extended over a much greater area.

Repeaters are generally made from expensive professional grade radio equipment, however ZR6AIC has been experimenting with creating an ultra low cost repeater out of a RTL-SDR and Raspberry Pi. In his system the RTL-SDR dongle is set up to receive a signal on the 70 cm (420 – 450 MHz) amateur radio band, and then retransmit it using Rpitx on the 2M (144 – 148 MHz) amateur radio band.  He also adds a 2M low pass filter to the output of the Raspberry Pi to keep the signal clean.

RTL-SDR + Rpitx Block Diagram
RTL-SDR + Rpitx Block Diagram

Rpitx is software for the Raspberry Pi which we have featured on this blog several times in the past. We’ve also seen the qtcsdr software which also uses Rpitx and an RTL-SDR to create a transceiver. Rpitx allows the Raspberry Pi to transmit radio signals without the need for any transmitting radio hardware at all. It works by modulating signals onto a General Purpose I/O (GPIO) pin on the Raspberry Pi. If the GPIO pin is modulated in just the right way, FM/AM/SSB or other signal modulation approximations can be created at a specified frequency. The signal is however not clean, as this type of modulation generates many harmonics which could be dangerous if amplified. If you use Rpitx, always use appropriate filtering hardware.

ZR6AIC’s post goes into detail about how to install and set up the required software onto the Raspberry Pi and how to set up the script to piece all the programs together into a repeater. He’s also uploaded a video demonstrating the system in action on YouTube.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTSNtzfe2YA[/embedyt]

PX4 Driver for the Aerotenna uLanding Radar Distance Sensor

At UAVenture we’ve been using the uLanding Lite from Aerotenna for a few months now as part of our crop spraying development work. The uLanding is a lightweight (60g), sealed radar based distance sensor with about 30m range and a fast 500Hz update rate making it ideal for low altitude terrain following and of course accurate autonomous landings.

Using a radar based distance sensor with a sealed case means that you will not be susceptible to bad distance readings caused by airborne mist from the spray system between the laser and the surface or, worse still, on the laser lenses.

The driver, written by Roman Bapst, has just been submitted to master on PX4‘s github repository and should make it into the next release.

More information: Driver details including setup and demo video

μLanding™ microwave altimeter

Last night in Drone Stuff this week we discussed crop spraying from drones and not 24 hours later a video pops up showing the sort of precision terrain following required to dust.

UAVenture has been testing the uLanding microwave altimeter. uLanding is a (60g), sealed distance sensor with a 30m range and 500Hz update rate. This enables terrain following to happen and is, of course, useful for landings!

The μLanding is a compact microwave altimeter based on Aerotenna’s miniaturised radar technology. μLanding is specially engineered for low profile and low power consumption in UAV applications. It is easy to integrate with flight controllers for autonomous takeoffs and landings.

Features:

  • High precision and wide sensing range
  • Miniaturised, compact, lightweight, and low power consumption design
  • Consistent performance in all-weather conditions
  • Easy integration with any airframe
  • Reliable assistant for autonomous takeoff and landing